Monday, June 20, 2005

Finally, time to put round one of Chris "Lefty" Brown's MIXED BAG CD PROJECT to bed!

In time to begin round two- I've received more than half of the CD's, and haven't listened to any of 'em yet because I'm waiting to finish commenting on round one, and also because I haven't had the opportunity to burn and send out MY round two contribution yet!

Anyway, the last two R1-ers:

MercuryX23's MIX23:

Not to reveal too much right off the bat, but this is one of my favorites of the CD's I received for round one- lots of interesting tracks by interesting bands, many of which I had been curious about in the first place.

The Best: Grant Lee Phillips' "See America" is a great track by a fellow who has one of the best voices in the music biz, in my own humble opinion. The rendition he did of the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun", on the If I Were A Carpenter tribute CD, gives me goosebumps and might just end up on a future mix. I was a big fan of his band Grant Lee Buffalo, and his solo career has been just as interesting. That said, I still haven't gotten around to picking up the CD this track comes from, Mobilize... I've also noted where I own the Mercury Rev album from which comes the next cut, "Opus 40", and like it very much. "Opus" is a great glam-via-Brian Wilson cut. The winning streak continues with the string-accented strains of Devotchka's "Queen of the Surface Streets", which kinda gives me an Astral Weeks vibe even though it sounds nothing like Van Morrison. Waterboys, perhaps. I LOVE Built to Spill's "Carry The Zero", a great surging popsong which reminds me of a dozen different groups but no one group in particular. It's very strong and has me wanting to hear more- I've read about these guys for years but have never been moved to investigate. There are cuts on the Arcade Fire's Funeral album I like better than "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), but this is a good one. The Fire is headed for great things down the road, I think- I like their sound. Elliott Smith, more often as not, leaves me cold but the track here, "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity..." isn't too bad. I listened to his swan song release a few times after it came out, and it didn't grab me. I'm not at all familiar with Home, but their "Chicago" is a great, grandiose piano-driven poprock song. Giant Sand is represented with a sloppy, jazz-flavored version of the great Roger Miller's "King of the Road"- not-bad alt-country. Neutral Milk Hotel's "Ghost" is a wonderfully unhinged, distortion-laden song which impresses even though the vocalist sounds like the hated Jackson Browne to my ears. Gotta love that trumpet solo, and the looney theramin-ish synths at the end. Olivia Tremor Control's "Hideaway" doesn't impress at first, but gets good after the Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies and brass section kick in. Whoever came up with the idea of having The Shat (a non-singer if there ever was one) cover "Common People" is a genius- this version is clever and it rocks, too. I haven't heard the rest of his album, but if all the tracks are this much fun, I'll have to check it out. The CD closes on a great note with Spiritualized's "Do It All Over Again", with its infectious melody and its grande finale feel.

The Rest: Cafe Tacuba's Spanish-language "Eres" is tuneful enough, but not particularly compelling. Jamie Cullum's Sinatra-or is that Connick?-esque "Twentysomething" is cute but wears thin after repeated listens. Lotsa marimbas, or synth-marimbas, on Aloha's "They See Rocks", but the tune kinda meanders along and reminds me of some of XTC's less successful attempts at pop-jazz. I really like the last couple of Flaming Lips albums, but their earlier releases, which have a more conventional hard-rock sound, aren't as appealing. The cut represented here, "Lightning Strikes the Postman", has a cool title but the track itself is just a lot of tuneless noise. I don't know what switch flipped on in Wayne Coyne's head before he made Soft Bulletin, but I'm glad it got flipped. I've never really been a Radiohead fan, and "A Wolf at the Door" isn't likely to make me a convert...but it sounds good in the context of the surrounding songs. Good sequencing. I've heard a lot about popsters Grandaddy, but "El Caminos in the West" didn't excite me much. It wasn't terrible, but it reminded me a lot of one of Fountains of Wayne's lesser tracks.

Subjects for Further Research: Oh, boy. Lots. Just about everybody in the "Best" section.

Re-listenability: High. I'll be coming back quite often to this one, especially for the Built To Spill track and the last five.


I think it's safe to deduce, with no less than three tracks represented, that Thom is an Eels fan. Fortunately, I am too.

The Best: "No Milk Today" is a neat track by one of those British Invasion groups that tend to be taken for granted when they're thought of at all, Herman's Hermits. Kinda sounds a little like the Move, or vice versa. I've never really been all that crazy about Nine Inch Nails, but "The Hand That Feeds" rocks agreeably enough. My son was (and still is, to a lesser extent) a HUGE NIN fan, and he happened to hear me listening to this CD in my truck the other day. His eyes got big and he said "Are YOU listening to Nine Inch Nails?". Hee hee. LS Underground's "Baby Flies a Comet" is a lively cut that kinda reminds me of Elvis Costello covering the Stones' "Shattered", with a middle eight that sounds like the Church. Nick Cave's "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" also echoes the Stones with some gospel-influenced en masse chorus vocals. Not bad, but a tad overlong. Cave seems to want to stretch every 3 minute track to at least 5. "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" is a great Eels track. The Killers are one of the most hyped groups of recent memory, but somehow I've managed to miss hearing them until now- "All These Things That I've Done" is a clumsy title, but it's an ambitiously-arranged bombastic pop song with promise. The Eels pop up again with a likeable cover of a great Elvis song, "Can't Help Falling". Nice to have a copy of Joey Ramone's poignant cover of "(What a) Wonderful World"; I never got around to picking up that solo album he did. "Blow It Away", by the regrettably named Lassie Foundation, was a not-bad charging rocker.

The Rest: The polka version of a track from my favorite Eels album Daisies of the Galaxy, "Flyswatter", is cute but not exactly my idea of a good time. Cush's "Arching Heart" isn't terrible, but it's kinda plodding and overlong. Not familiar with Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song (cool name, though), and this cut, "Like Titanic" doesn't yank my crank although it has some interesting pop touches. Juliana Theory's "Jewel to Sparkle" fails to do so, sounding to me like run of the mill 90s alternasynthpoprock. White Stripes' "Black Math" certainly thrashes up a fair amount of Sabbath-cacophony, but it's simply to arryhthmical for me to get into. I like the WS's, and that Elephant album, but that's not one of my fave tracks. Green Day, the Official Band of the Mix Bag Project, is represented yet again with "Give Me Novocaine", which I didn't hate but don't like all that much either. I've read a lot of hype for Interpol, but didn't care for this track, "Evil", at all- too much like a harder-edged Cake, and for no good reason. Over The Rhine's "When You Say Love" had a strong 80's vibe- guess it's that stuttering guitar-and-synth lick. problem is, this sort of 80's vibe track leaves me cold. The Choir's "We Give We Take" was fairly strong melodically but not terribly distinctive. A plodding chunka-chunka riff doesn't help the dull, mid-tempo selection by Starflyer, "Not Funny". Again, I was reminded of Fountains of Wayne. There's a fair-to-middling cover of "Black Betty" by someone named Spiderbait- the original was fun but got old real fast and time hasn't improved it or any cover versions. Sounds like something Rob Zombie would stick in one of his crappy horror movies. Not familiar with Pedro the Lion, either, and the last cut, "The Poison", kinda sounds like Beck at his most doleful.

Track 12 didn't get listed, so I have no clue who it is. It's not especially impressive- kinda sounds like more generic 90s poprock.

Re-playability: Moderately low, although there are a couple of tracks I'll come back to now and again.

Whew! I'd do some kind of summing-up of all the discs, but I'm ready to move on. All in all, though, there wasn't a bad disc in the bunch and I got to hear a lot of great music that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to hear otherwise, so it's all good.

I'll get around to round two soon, probably on the LJ. My tracklist for my R2 CD will be up there soon as well.

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